Family Traditions and Handling Holiday Decorating The Autism Way


So we got our Christmas tree up this afternoon, and I have to say, it was the best year yet for getting the decorating done. Why? I think Dad and I were organized with having the decorations brought upstairs in advance, Dad put the tree and lights on the tree up when Michael and I were at one of his extra curricular activities, and I am letting things be this year. I did not push Michael’s musical choice in putting up the tree (pop and hip hop music not our usual Christmas music) as that is what he was comfortable with, and as he was really interested in decorating the tree and surrounding areas, I let him take the lead. Control is so important for Michael, and having a say in some things matter a lot. He did learn to follow my lead and cooperate, and everything went really smoothly. He even was interested in putting up the manger which was a nice surprise for me as he is struggling with God and faith. He believes on some level I know, but still refuses to go to church with me.

I paid special attention to planning out our holiday decorating after an extremely challenging five days at home with lots of physical and mental challenges for him and I. What a relief to have a relatively calm day (with some challenges but manageable) today. As I’ve mentioned before, and will mention again, December is an extremely difficult month for families with  exceptional children. The parties, the crazy schedules, the togetherness of people makes it harder for our kids, at at time when everyone else is celebrating and having fun. Heck, it’s even crazy for some neuro typical people. 🙂 It used to break my heart to watch Michael suffering at my favorite time of year, and not being able to share that joy with me. All he saw was that his normal routine of school and friends was interrupted. He even slept differently though we kept to his usual routine. As he gets older, it gets easier as he understands the season of Christmas with gifts, good food, family gathering, and even good deeds, which we continue to talk about along with celebrating Jesus’ birthday which we talk about due to being Christians. But the anxiety over the unpredictability is still there. We do our best to make sure he gets down time, and some structure with outings to offset the rest of the lack of structure.

What I would suggest to other Exceptional parents struggling out there, is to have a set routine all the same for your Exceptional Children around the parties. Make sure you bring their sensory toys with you everywhere so they have downtime with them, and talk in advance about large family or friend gatherings so that they are not so overwhelmed. Make sure they have a “safe room” to retreat to if they get overwhelmed, or that family and friends know if advance you and your family may have to leave the party in advance. As they get older, it gets better and they can communicate to you their feelings too. Also, don’t have big expectations. That’s not to say that you should not believe your children capable of participating in events, but do it according to what makes them comfortable. Do it “autism style.” I have learned that the more I stop trying to put pressure that our family be like a neuto typical family when I’m around mine or my partner’s neuro typcial family, the easier the holidays get. We are a special needs family, and we’re fine thanks. We may struggle a little bit more, but we have our community and people who “get us” and are even lucky our own family (at least most of them) get us. We have our “village” as one close friend called it, and beyond.

Exceptional Parents, how do you and your Exceptional family handle the holidays? What tips do you use to make things run more smoothly? Remember, go with your child’s flow, don’t feel pressured to do and be with everyone during the holiday season at the expense of yours and your Exceptional family’s health, and watch your child adapt and bloom. Good luck with your holiday decorating and preparations. Until next time.

One of the hardest and most stressful times of the year for special needs families is fast approaching. Are you and your exceptional family ready? Do you need new strategies to cope with anxiety? Download my FREE EBOOK on “5 WAYS TO HANDLE EXCEPTIONAL FAMILY ANXIETY”


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